... Like a reader scorned

Good true crime books very rarely come in two. The trusting reader may finish an excellent book about a well-known case, see another book on the same case and think, "that was so good, I think I'll have another." Think again, dear reader, because the next book might be as mind-bendingly awful as "Hell Hath No Fury".

One truly great, genre-transcending book has been written about the Betty Broderick case. It's called Until the Twelfth of Never, by Bella Stumbo. This book, by Bryna Taubman is an assault on the genre aided and abetted by St. Martin's Paperbacks. Of all the out of print true crime books they had to pick THIS ONE to reprint as "True Crime Classic"? Perhaps their definition is more elastic than mine. Certainly their definition of "astonishing" is. The back cover promises "8 PAGES OF ASTONISHING PHOTOS. Inside are photos of (sensitive readers may wish to skip to the next line) people testifying at the trial. But that's not all, there are pictures of the house and of the victims, BEFORE THEY DIED.

With content like that you'd think they'd slap a warning label on this book.

Actually, a warning label might be a good idea. I'd have appreciated knowing in advance that I was going to be subjected to two full paragraphs describing the exterior of the house in which the murder were committed. Especially when the description included this:

"The curved driveway passed in front of the four white columns that rose to the overhanging roof."

Gee, you mean the columns didn't just keep on rising until they reached they sky? The driveway didn't go behind the columns and cut through the living room? Those crazy Californians and their ideas on architecture. It gets worse. Betty Broderick, packing heat and having broken into her ex-husband's house at dawn, is "undaunted" by a closed door. We then get details, and I do mean details, about Betty's escape route. The names of the roads she took, the nicknames of the roads she took, what the roads pass, how direct they are, etc. Google Maps should dream of being this comprehensive.

At the time, the Betty Broderick case was widely covered, and thank goodness or how would this book have been written? Surely not through actual first-hand research. Taubman quotes liberally from the People, The San Diego Tribune, Hard Copy, even Ladies Home Journal. She takes the view that Betty was driven to kill and never lets up. When Taubman finally gets around to noting that nothing "can justify" the taking of two lives, it's in the last five pages. Up until then she takes whatever Betty says and presents it as gospel.

Taubman makes some nutty claims, such as "a man accused of killing of killing an unfaithful mate ... is portrayed as defending his honor." Seriously? In San Diego in 1990? Later she excuses Betty as having even "lost her mind for a few seconds." Which seconds would these be? The ones where she dumped her kids off in the middle of the night outside an empty house? When she drove her car through the front door? When she took a gun to her ex-husband's house "to talk"? The Broderick story never gets any thoughtful analysis here, just hyperbole and ranting.

If you want a nuanced, balanced telling that shows the selfish, appalling behavior of both parties, see Bella Stumbo's book. If you want to know more about the author, you'll be left wanting once again. There's no info about Bryna Taubman included; no "About the Author" blurb. Which makes sense. If I'd written this book I'd want to enter the author equivalent of the Witness Protection Program too.

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